Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s Remarks to Media per Meeting with Governor Zviad Shalamberidze

Q-n about the meeting

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I had a very good meeting with Governor Shalamberidze. We talked about local government, the important role that citizens play in making sure that their local officials know their concerns and priorities and are responsive to their concerns and priorities. We talked also about the upcoming elections and the preparations to make sure they can be conducted in a free and fair, transparent manner, including under the current COVID situation, which will be a challenge. And we discussed also economic opportunities and the development that is going on in this area and the different projects that are underway that will, hopefully, generate more jobs and more opportunities for the citizens of these regions. 

Q-n about the pre-election environment in Georgia and how will the U.S. monitor the elections

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: We were very pleased to see the adoption of the constitutional amendments and the important electoral reform law. While the law didn’t contain everything that we and other international experts recommended be included, there were significant improvements incorporated into the electoral reform legislation. The key now is that that legislation is vigorously enforced, vigorously implemented over the course of the coming weeks and months up to the elections, so that voters have the conditions for casting their votes without intimidation, freely and fairly, in order to be confident in the outcome of the elections. I would also say, very important to successful elections is going to be a good voter education campaign, making sure that voters understand especially in this COVID environment how to safely cast their vote, what their rights are in voting and again, what their expectations are of their own elected leaders. 

Q-n about opposition parties having a disagreement on majoritarian candidates for the upcoming elections and is this will hinder conducting the elections in a democratic way 

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: In many ways, this is what the democratic process is about. It is about the give and take among parties, it is about discussing issues that are important to voters and coming up with platforms that reflect the voters’ priorities, explain how different parties are going to best represent and respond to those priorities. So, I think, the give and take that is happening right now among the opposition is healthy, I hope that they will focus soon on their platforms and explaining what they will bring to voters if they are elected because that is the core of the election that we are going to see in October. 

Q-n about the recent reports of some insufficient rehabilitation works on Gelaty Monastery 

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: We are following that closely, but I would say that we are very proud of the contributions that the U.S. Embassy has been able to make to help restore this treasure in this region. The Governor and I were discussing some of the other rich cultural treasures that are here, that some of which will be in the museum that’s soon to be opened, others I’m looking forward to going to visit. We are also very proud of our contributions here in the form of American Corner which is at the library here, which brings together a space for people who are interested in learning more about America but also interested in pursuing their own innovative ideas and I’m looking forward to visiting that later today. Thank you!